Georgia Historical Society Dedicates New Civil Rights Trail Historical Marker Recognizing Mayor Richmond D. Hill

Staff Report

Tuesday, March 28th, 2023

The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) unveiled a new Civil Rights Trail historical marker recognizing Richmond D. Hill, Georgia’s first Black mayor, on Saturday, March 25, 2023, in Greenville. GHS dedicated the new marker in partnership with The Odessadale Preservation Committee and the City of Greenville.

The marker joins over 50 historical markers across the state that make up GHS’s Georgia Civil Rights Trail, an initiative that uses historical markers to document the struggle for human and civil rights from the period following Reconstruction to the modern movement in the mid twentieth century.

Richmond D. Hill, a local funeral director, entrepreneur, and activist, was among the founding members of the Meriwether County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Through the NAACP, Hill assisted the efforts to educate, organize, and register rural African-American voters after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Hill was elected as mayor of Greenville in 1973, making him the first African American to be elected mayor of a municipality in Georgia. A record number of elections across the country resulted in the appointments of Black candidates that year, including two other trailblazing electoral wins in the state: Andrew Young, the first African-American US Congressman since Reconstruction, and Maynard Jackson, the first African-American mayor of a major southern city in Atlanta. Hill served as mayor for nearly ten years before retiring from public service.

“The Honorable Richmond D. Hill’s story is about our nation’s promise of liberty and justice, a promise that was denied much of his life,” says Dr. Tony B. Lowe of the Friends of Richmond D. Hill and The Odessadale Preservation Committee. “His improbable rise to the office of mayor in the small city of Greenville is a reminder that the modern Civil Rights Movement had a footing in rural communities outside of the bright lights of our urban centers. Because he dared to lead 50 years ago, we are stronger as a community and nation when everyone shares a seat at the table of humanity and civic participation. Every African-American mayor elected in the history of Georgia stands on his shoulders. We are pleased that the Georgia Historical Society recognized his important place in Georgia's history.”

The marker dedication took place at 101 North Depot Street in Greenville. Speakers included the Reverend Lonnie L. Thornton, Sr., Pastor, Burks Chapel United Methodist Church; Charlene Glover, Mayor, City of Greenville; Breana James, Historical Marker and Program Coordinator, Georgia Historical Society; Dr. Bob Patterson, Board Chair, Meriwether Chamber of Commerce; Robert Moreland, former County Commissioner and City Councilman; Dr. Tony B. Lowe, The Friends of Richmond D. Hill and The Odessadale Preservation Committee; and Virginia Hill, City Councilwoman and daughter.